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Delaware Mother Jailed for Not Paying $177 in Fines, Dies in Custody, Nurse Convicted

Tiffany Reeves, a mother of three, was arrested in October 2018 on two outstanding warrants and detained at the Sussex Correctional Institution, an all-male facility, to await hearings before two judges. One of the warrants stemmed from Reeves’ attempt to purchase heroin a year earlier in New Castle County, Delaware and failure to appear before a judge after being released from a treatment facility. The other warrant was for not paying fines from a 2013 arrest for intentionally endangering the welfare of her children, fines totaling $177.

However, before Reeves could make her hearings, she died. Reeves battled drug addiction for most of her life. Over the years, the 37-year-old’s struggles had cost her money, her freedom, and eventually the custody of her children. In 2012, Reeves turned herself in to authorities after a warrant was issued for her involvement in hitting a wheel-chair bound woman and leaving the scene.

Recently, though, she had started taking methadone in order to lead a sober life. Initially, the circumstances surrounding Reeves’s death remained unclear. Her mother, Janine Grossnickle, said that her daughter’s autopsy showed no signs of foul play or trauma and a toxicology report would take six to eight weeks. Grossnickle suspected that her daughter’s sudden death resulted from not receiving methadone treatments.

A Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) spokeswoman, Jayne Gravel, stated that prisoners can continue, and even seek, medication-assisted treatments while incarcerated. “DOC is confident all medical and security procedures were followed appropriately,” Gravel said.

But an investigation into Reeves’s death eventually uncovered that an ex-nurse at Sussex Correctional Institution, Erin Clark-Penland, falsified prison records and provided false statements to law enforcement. Clark-Penland had been employed by Connections, a nonprofit company providing medical care to Delaware prisons.

The DOC discovered discrepancies in what Clark-Penland told law enforcement and what she had originally told DOC officials investigating Reeves’s death. Clark-Penland pleaded guilty in August 2021 to two misdemeanor charges of lying, although the DOC’s investigation concluded that “no foul play” was involved. Clark-Penland’s nursing license was placed on probation for two years. As we go to process she has not been sentenced yet on the criminal charges. 




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